Louisville, KY – Louisville Women’s Basketball is back and the expectations are high. The Cardinals ring in the season tabbed fifth in the preseason Associate Press poll.
It’s safe to say, the Cardinals are all in this season. Coming off an unexpected end in the post-season, this team touts the talent and focus to meet their high expectations.
With the season tipping off in a week, here are a few quick observations:
The Vets are Back and Better than Ever.
Last season, the Big Four – Myisha Hines-Allen, Mariya Moore, Asia Durr and Briahanna Jackson – led the Cardinals to a 26 – 8 record, 15 – 1 in conference play. This season look for the Big Four to continue their dominance. But don’t be surprised if some new faces put up big numbers.
Junior forward and reigning ACC Player of the Year, Myisha Hines-Allen, stayed in Louisville this summer to work with the strength and conditioning coach. Hines-Allen says fitness wise she’s in a lot better shape which allows her to last longer on the court without tiring. During ACC Media Day, Coach Walz said Hines-Allen has learned to step out to the three-point line. With a great mid-range jump shot last season, averaging 54.7% from the floor, adding a three-point shot makes Hines-Allen’s a huge threat for the Cardinals.
Junior Mariya Moore led the team behind the arc connecting on 77 3-pointers. Moore, selected to the Preseason All-ACC team, will continue her dominance from downtown this season. At the tip-off luncheon, Moore said she spent the off-season improving her defense. She admits she also watched a lot of her film to learn her strengths and weaknesses. Moore tallied 14.1 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists last season. Look for Moore to continue her dynamic play while transforming into a defensive threat.
Senior Briahanna Jackson, already a dynamic and explosive athlete, has made significant gains in the off-season. Coach Walz went so far to say Jackson made the most improvements in the off-season. Jackson will be playing a different role this season: Point Guard. Coach Walz discussed the change at ACC Media Day stating Jackson is doing a fantastic job of getting people open shots. He said she’s getting the ball in the right area, she understands the offense; she understands to dish the ball out to the hot hand. Perhaps Jackson’s best on court attribute is her ability to change the game at the defensive end. Jackson finished the season with a team-best 68 steals. Jackson is geared for a great senior season.
Sophomore Asia Durr is coming off a breakout freshman campaign. Durr played the majority of her first year with an injury. Yet, she still managed to rack up 11 points-per-game, connecting on 44 shots beyond the arc for a team-best 36.1% from downtown. Coach Walz told the fans at the tip-off luncheon that Asia is looking like the athlete he recruited. He went on to say Durr is playing at 100%.
Louisville’s Non-Conference Schedule is INTENSE.
The Cardinals face 14 teams before entering conference play; 11 of which competed in post season play. The toughest stretch will begin on November 27th as the Cardinals head to Massachusetts to play South Carolina (preseason # 4) in the Basketball Hall of Fame Classic. Louisville then returns home to take on Maryland (preseason # 6) on December 1st, Kentucky (preseason # 19) on December 4th, Western Kentucky on December 11th and South Dakota State (receiving votes) on December 14th.
The Cardinals are set to face tough opponents, but it’s the challenge they need to contend for a conference title and National title.
Season tickets and mini-plans are still available. You will not want to miss the home stretch featuring Maryland, Kentucky, Western Kentucky and South Dakota State.
The Expectations are High.
The Cardinals enter the season ranked 5th in the Associated Press Preseason Top-25 and 8th in the USA Today Preseason Coaches’ Poll. Last season saw a disappointing end with a loss to DePaul at home in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Coach Walz told the media at ACC Media Day, “We had a disappointing end to the season…” He added, “Overall when you look back, yes, it was a good year. We had a lot of individual accomplishments. But our team goals were not met.”
Coach Walz truly believes this team is going to be special, telling the fans, “This is probably the most talented team that we’ve had in the ten years that I’ve been here. Top to bottom.” Coach Walz cautioned that while the team does not have an Angel McCoughtry, someone who can go out and put up 40-points on any given night, he added, “We have a group of probably ten that I feel can get us 18-25 on any given night.”
These CARDS are STACKED.
This is NOT a young team. Coach Walz drove that point home at the luncheon. The Cardinals return eight letterwinners, including all five starters – Myisha Hines-Allen, Cortnee Walton, Mariya Moore, Briahanna Jackson and Arica Carter. Louisville also welcomes a fifth-year senior transfer in Taylor Johnson. Yes, the Cardinals picked up six freshmen, tabbed as the sixth best recruiting class in the nation. But, the freshmen are not entering a team with an identity crisis.
“Our players have worked extremely hard. We’ve improved. Our returning players have gotten better. Our incoming players, freshmen and fifth-year senior Taylor Johnson, have competed and pushed our returners.” Coach Walz said at ACC Media Day, “And there’s no question, we have had some of the best and most spirited practices since I’ve been here because there’s so much competition and depth that nobody can feel real good about, ‘hey I’m a guaranteed starter.’”
The Cardinals kick off the season this Sunday, November 6th at 2 PM in an exhibition game against Lindsey Wilson. Admission is FREE.